It’s already May, isn’t that stunning? I feel as if only yesterday I was rooting through the kids Halloween candy looking for the Jr. Mints, but then it has been a crazier than usual year so it’s no surprise its a blur. Let me fill you in on what I’ve been up to the past few months: Last September, as the kids started a new school year I began my crusade to build vegetable gardens at their school. I walked into my first meeting with the principal with an idea, a passion for gardening and the confidence that my diy pro of a husband could help me execute whatever plan I came up with. Eight (somewhat tedious) months later that idea has become a reality and yours truly is now the proud chairperson behind the ‘Oak View Elementary Garden’ (O*VEG for short).
Our school garden is a true labor of love, for me and everyone else involved. Countless hours have been spent planning, researching and jumping through flaming hoops to get to where we are today. Thankfully I wasn’t alone in my belief that a school gardens matter. Once word went out that approval to build had finally been given, the volunteers started pouring in and what a marvelous and irreplaceable group they proved to be! The physical garden was built in the rain (and only after multiple weather delays including a Spring snowstorm) by a group of remarkably dedicated parents and children. Hauling gravel, dumping loads of soil, installing beds and fencing and painting sheets of plywood beneath the protection of tents. All the while smiling, laughing and filled with good cheer despite the crummy conditions. I was knocked out by the sheer number of parents willing to give up their weekend to help turn an ugly expanse of blacktop into an oasis of growth. A group who believed in the power of possibility and who knew their efforts mattered. Mother Nature however had other ideas. The very same night as our garden build storms blew through the area; uprooting trees, downing power lines and blowing apart our fencing. I won’t lie, it was heartbreaking but it didn’t diminish our spirits for long. Back to the drawing board, back to work and before long… back to a lovely garden.
We had our ribbon cutting ceremony on April 22nd— Earth Day. Four hundred students circled the garden cheering as the gate was officially opened. Then a student representative from each of the six grades as well as special ed helped us plant the first vegetables of the garden. Back in the early Spring we had kicked off our garden adventure with a little seed starting with kindergarten and first grades. They scooped dirt, read direction sheets and planted seeds like the future urban farmers they all are. Beginning next week each classroom will be transplanting their seedlings into the garden, and then the real work will begin!
The other O*VEG’ers and I understand that there is only so much time in the day and that curriculums are already quite full. To insure that the kids have every opportunity to experience and enjoy the garden, a parent committee has been working to develop an extra curricular program for interested students. First on our list is an afternoon spent learning about earthworms, their importance in a garden and (hopefully) even setting up our own vermicomposting bin. We’d like to purchase night crawlers that can be added to our beds, allowing the kids (some of whom have never held a worm) the opportunity to touch one of natures ultimate aerators before it’s sent off to work. Another afternoon the students will be invited to visit my garden and meet the beekeeper who maintains my two honey bee hives. We will discuss the importance of pollinators and why we need to protect them. Our hope is that this school garden will create a learning opportunity for our children outside of the constraints of the classroom. The plan is to donate any food harvested from the garden to a local soup kitchen, thus also helping our children to gain an understanding of the value of volunteerism. Education, environmental stewardship, and a deeper connection to nature and the world at large is what we hope the garden will be able to offer to our school community. Oh and a few Jersey tomatoes of course!
So you see I may have been absent from my blog, but certainly not from my life. I’m tired, but here’s the thing… It’s an extraordinarily exciting time to be at Oak View for both the students and parents. It’s been inspiring to witness the enthusiasm and sense of community the garden has already generated throughout the school. A community I can only imagine will continue to grow and thrive as the plants themselves do. Seeing the kids visiting the garden, checking out the few plants that have already been planted and considering the space their own, makes my heart smile. And that my friend, makes all the effort worth it.